French football star Zidane to help sell luxury home project in Mumbai

Former French soccer player and current Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane attends a news conference in Mumbai, India, on June 10.
Former French soccer player and current Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane attends a news conference in Mumbai, India, on June 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUMBAI (Bloomberg) - Zinedine Zidane is renowned for his prowess on the football field. Now a Mumbai developer is counting on the retired French football star's power off the pitch to revive flagging sales in the city's luxury home market.

Kanakia Spaces has hired the former attacking midfielder to market a high-end residential project named Paris in Mumbai's new business district in the northern part of the city called Bandra. Zidane has been signed on as the project's wellness brand ambassador to design the development's fitness and sports areas. The company did not disclose how much it's paying for Zidane's brand endorsement.

Kanakia, which is counting on the star power of Zizou, as 43-year-old Zidane was nicknamed during his career, features a four-story replica of the Eiffel Tower and a reproduction of the Louvre Pyramid at the Paris project.

The builder has sold about 43 per cent of the 464 apartments for sale at the development, where units range from 760 sq ft to 1,300 sq ft and cost between 37.6 million rupees and 64 million rupees, the company said.

Indian developers are finding new ways to attract homebuyers to their luxury developments in Mumbai, where the number of unsold homes is at a record as prices hover near all- time highs. Novel offerings to boost sales range from free BMW automobiles to day spas for pampered pets and sports-themed apartment complexes.

"These marketing gimmicks won't help to sell these homes," said Mr Pankaj Kapoor, founder of Liases Foras Real Estate Ratings & Research Pvt. "Prices have escalated at every level and what's needed to boost sales is a genuine price correction."

Sales of homes costing more than 20 million rupees dropped 23 per cent in the quarter ended March from the previous three-month period, according to data compiled by the property consultancy and advisory firm.

The average home price in Mumbai is still near a record set in December 2014, as a limited supply of land and demand created by a growing urban population have led to "exorbitant price levels", according to Mr Kapoor.

As sellers have resisted dropping prices, Mumbai is grappling with record inventory. The city has 266 million sq ft of unsold homes, Liases Foras said. It may take developers as many as five years to unload their inventory of luxury homes at current levels, the data show.

Against that backdrop, sales tactics are getting more gimmicky. A developer called Ekta World offered customers a BMW 5 series car as incentive to buy a four-bedroom home in its Invictus project in central Mumbai. Another, Nirmal Lifestyle, has teamed up with the organisers of the famed US Open tennis tournaments to offer residents access to state-of-the-art sports facilities.

Omkar Realtors & Developers Pvt's 1973 residential project in South Mumbai includes an outlet of US-based The Barkley Pet Hotel and Day Spa. It will open next year at a height of 200m in one of the new residential towers, touting "an envious view of the Arabian Sea", according to its website.

Budget homes costing less than 2.5 million rupees is the only segment which is showing signs of demand picking up.

Zidane, who now is the manager of the Real Madrid football club, arrived at a sports complex in downtown Mumbai earlier this month with a large security detail, addressing a press conference in French through a translator after his appointment was announced.

To promote the project, Zidane did penalty shootouts in bare feet at an event organised by the developer. Later the same day, wearing a white traditional garment called a kurta, he attended a fashion show and was part of a panel discussion with Indian film stars where he fielded questions from how he got his nickname (his trainer first called him that and it caught on) to his affinity for the south Asian nation.

"India is the origin of yoga," Zidane said. "I practise it every day to retain my concentration. It helps me beat stress. I can sleep peacefully before a match day."